Remember the fable of the tortoise and the hare? The hare ran very fastbut got cocky and slacked off, then lost the race. The tortoise moved slowlybut consistently and won the race. The “tortoise and the hare” is an excellentmetaphor for understanding the nature of our individual velocity.
Velocity? Most people donot think about having a personal velocity.Velocity, which is rate of motion or speed, is usually used in the context of acar or a speeding bullet, not in the context of a person.
According to Jim Cathcart, your velocity is a combination of your energy patterns and your drive.There is a naturalintensity and drive, a pace at which each person is at his or her best, and itdiffers from one individual to the next.
So what is your natural pace? In order to find out you will need tounderstand the concept of human velocity. Velocity is the intensity withwhich you live. Some people naturally operate at a highly intense pace andothers at a less intense pace. Each is probably best suited to his or her ownpace. But in the modern society we have a bias toward achievement and encourageeach person to aspire to high velocity.
Cathcart discerns three different levels of velocity: high, moderate, and low.
Those with natural high velocity love to work long hours and tackle big assignments. Their spare time is also spent advancing their goals, and these goals. For such people a typical goal will involve world-class achievement.
Those with moderate velocity are less intense. At the workplace their normal workday would be eight hours. They will put in overtime if needed to, but otherwise would not put in because they are compelled to; they would put it in becauseit was needed as part of the team’s contribution to the effort. Their way ofworking is to identify a particular time frame for the various things thatneed to be done and to do it within that time frame. If it doesnot all get donetoday, there is still tomorrow.
Those with much lower velocity have a pace that is often easy and laid-back.They are never the typewho would get really excited about a long-term plan for a big goal. For them,setting the next goal, the next reasonable achievement, seemed to makebetter sense, and they like to go with the flow.
How you view work may also be a key to understanding your personalvelocity. People of low velocity generally donot enjoy anything that feelslike work. They would gladly follow the philosophy that you should makeyour play your work and your work your play, meaning that they would love tomake a living doing what they love.
People of high velocity, on the other hand, actually enjoy the work, aslong as it moves them toward their goals. They sometimes get bored withplay and feel the need to turn play into work. They need that intensity andpurposefulness. In contrast, moderate-velocity people like a nice balance ofwork and play.
What is your velocity? We all need to know what pace works best for us.When we exceed it, we start to experience burnout. When we donot evenapproach it, we experience boredom or depression. The key for all of us isto identify and stay within our zone.
So think about your own natural velocity. What zone are youcomfortable in? The“zone” is when youflow, you know you are working at your best, you are at your right pace and level of intensity, the challenge you havebitten off is just about the size you can chew, and you know you are goingafter something you can handle.
When you get above your zone, when you are pushing yourself too hard,the first thing you experience is stress, a feeling of tension. Now, realizethat stress can be a good thing. Stress is just pressure, resistance. Whenpeople handle this pressure in unhealthful ways, stress gets a negativeconnotation. If you continue to push harder against the pressure of stress,and if you stay anxious, you can start losing effectiveness.
On the lower side, if you donot push yourself hard enough, if you donottake on a big enough challenge, the first thing you experience is boredom.It is not enough to keep you alert, awake, at your best, in yourzone. You will find that you become disinterested or bored if you continuewithout experiencing enough challenge to get yourself going. And boredomcan become apathy, a total lack of interest.
Apathy leads to depression. In each case—boredom, apathy, anddepression, or stress, anxiety, and burnout—the problem is that you areoutside your natural velocity. A researcher has found out that “we are happiest; we are in our zone, when we are challenged to achieve a goal.”
Challengeis at the core of our happiness. Now, you might say that challenge isstressful. Yes, it can be, but if you know what your natural velocity is, Cathcart believes, challenge can be fun.
Once you know what your best velocity is, you can stay in thezone almost all the time. We need to get out of the mentality of thinking, “What is my maximum, the most I could do?”and start asking, “What is my optimum, the best I can do?”You donot want to burn yourself out. You wantto find your cruising speed so you can stay there all day long.
Velocity is a combination of energy and drive, combining physical andmental. Your natural range of physical energy is enhanced or limited byyour nutrition, fitness, the amount of rest you get, the way you managestress, and your attitude. You also have a natural degree of drive or self-motivation.Drive is affected by your self-esteem, the clarity of yourpurpose and goals, and your awareness of possibilities.
Here is how Cathcart describes high, moderate, and low velocity in terms ofenergy and drive.
HIGHVELOCITY:Your drive is to be self-motivated. You love to worktoward goals, particularly challenging goals. You have high aspirations andhold yourself and others to high standards. Competition excites you, andyou have high expectations of yourself.
Your energy is allocated by always thinking about tasks, goals, or workinterests. You even use leisure time to advance toward goals, whetherthey are personal or professional. You find inactivity to be frustrating. Youprefer long hours filled with varied activity.
MODERATE VELOCITY:Your drive is to be somewhat self-motivated. Youset reachable goals, have moderate aspirations, donot demand perfection,and accept competition, though you do not require it.
You allocate your energy with a balance of work and leisure. You preferstandard workdays that do not require constant overtime, with a moderatemix of activities. You use leisure time to complete chores and to socialize.
LOW VELOCITY:You are driven primarily by immediate needs or byothers. You find work generally demotivating. You prefer to work as a teamplayer rather than be a solo performer or leader of the team. You would preferthat someone else took the lead. You seldom set big goals. You have mild aspirations; andyou really donot like competition, avoiding it ifpossible.
You use your energy to take things as they come. You are casual aboutyour leisure time, which you use to pursue personal or social interests. Youenjoy occasional inactivity and appreciate your own downtime.
Remember, everyone has a pace and an intensity for which he or she isnaturally suited. When you acknowledge that and attain your zone, you areat your best, your creativity increases, your productivity grows, and yourpeace of mind flourishes.